Movements and Institutions

Pentecost falls on May 27 this year as a day marking the “birthday of the Church,” the day in which Jesus’ followers were given Spiritual authority to continue his mission and message to the ends of the earth. But Pentecost has another important meaning: it is about the way that God continually provides new guidance from the Holy Spirit for people of faith. At the time of Jesus, the Jewish faith was an ancient practice and also an institution. It had all the benefits of an institution (like stability, comfort, financial abundance, educational standards) but also many of the disadvantages (power disputes, corruption, old grudges, and resistance to change). The “Jesus Movement,” as many have dubbed it, brought new life and spirit into an old tradition without simply throwing away all of the faithful practices and stories of that tradition. Like all new movements, it could be creative and responsive to the Spirit because its members weren’t concerned with institutional survival. In this way, Pentecost is not only a model for how the church began, but also for how a truly Reformed and Reforming church must continue. Wherever we are tempted to live according what might be comfortable or traditional, it is important for us to ask: is this what the Holy Spirit is calling for? Or is our preference for what is familiar preventing us from sharing Christ’s Gospel message more effectively? It doesn’t have to mean that our current practices aren’t good and well-intentioned. But as Suzanne Farnham1 has written, “To be doing what is good can be the greatest obstacle to doing
something even better.” As Pentecost draws near, let us prepare to hear what the Holy Spirit is calling us to do, in our lives, our congregation, and our community.

-Pastor Rachael
1. Farnham et al. Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community (Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1991).